People Who Need People.
I first started blogging because I felt alone and wanted to find more than diabetes misery in my "diabetes" search returns on Google. That was five years ago. The blogosphere was shiny and new(ish, at least), and the diabetes blogosphere was in its infancy, with very few "real" voices carrying over the snake oil spammers and the WebMD sites. Even though I had buddies from Clara Barton Camp and even though I knew of one or two other diabetics through friends of friends, I didn't have a network of people who really "got it."
But the Internet grew, and the diabetes community grew with it. Today we have hundreds of diabetes blogs and dozens of diabetes chat discussions on Twitter and Facebook groups and forums and Flickr groups and entire social networks and on and on and … well, on.
Last night, during the #dsma (Diabetes Social Media Advocacy) discussion on Twitter, I realized that the shift is happening again. The discussion was turning towards how to help connect with other diabetics who weren't online and who didn't have access to the online community. Before blogging, I was searching for online diabetes connections because there were very few people with diabetes in my offline life. I liked connecting with others online because I was sort of cloaked in the then-anonymity of the internet. I could talk about the feelings stirred up by that nasty 242 mg/dl blood sugar the other morning, or the shame in skipping my workout so I could go out to dinner. But after blogging about these experiences, I would log off and return to "real life," where no one knew much about what life was really like with diabetes.
Then the lines started to blur, and I wanted to remove that cloak. I wanted to know more than just the diabetes sides of these people's personalities. In person meet ups were scheduled, and dinners started to become regular monthly events, and I started removing the caveat of "blogger" when I was referring to my new friends. Blog life and real life weren't as separate as they once were, and while diabetes was more of a discussion point than it had ever been before, it felt like a smaller part of my life. Love, marriage, friends, traveling, hobbies ... those things seems to take precedence over diabetes. While I still managed my condition closely, I felt like I could breathe easier, knowing there were all these people who really understood how I felt. And the more I got to know these people, the better I felt about my diabetes.
Which is why it makes perfect sense that people went online to find people they could hang out with in person. Full circle. We're just a pile of people who need people.
I realized that even though the Internet provides so much support and information for people living with diabetes, there isn't anything quite like talking face-to-face with another person with diabetes. The words you speak out loud may be the very same ones you'd write in a blog post or comment, but there is something so cool about seeing the actual arched eyebrow or tugging grin or wild hand gesture. And as the diabetes community grows online, I see it budding and blooming in "real life," in meet ups and dinner dates and conferences. (We're like the anti-Vegas - what happens online meets in a coffee shop eventually.)
Diabetes on your own can be a very heavy burden. Lots to manage, lots to juggle, and lots of emotions to muddle through at any given time. But with the kind of support that we, as members of this community have access to, it's like a helium injection.
And it all gets lighter, and easier to carry.